Thundercats, Cowgirls and a team once named Bangerang

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There’s the BYU vs. Utah rivalry, the Army vs. Navy rivalry and the Thundercats vs. Cowgirls rivalry.

With more than 12,000 participants each school year, few teams are able to leave a lasting legacy of competitiveness and winning in the BYU Intramural program.

“They’re our arch-nemesis,” said Chelsy Erickson, long-time member of the Cowgirls.

Erickson, a recreational management graduate, has played nearly every intramural sport available and has won an intramural T-shirt in each sport she has played since 1999.

Chelsy Erickson directs her receivers during an intramural championship game. Photo courtesy Chelsy Erickson.
Chelsy Erickson directs her receivers during an intramural championship game. Photo courtesy Chelsy Erickson.

“I graduated in 2002 when everyone was still in junior high,” Erickson laughed.

Stacey Johnson, a 22-year-old recreational management major, plays first base on both the dominant co-ed and women’s softball teams named Team Cobra, the softball sister team of the Cowgirls, with Erickson.

Johnson, of Whitehall, Wis., expressed the notoriety of being on a winning team.

“Teams know us,” Johnson said in regard to the reputation of Team Cobra. “There were some games where it was 20–4.”

Throughout the course of the co-ed softball season this summer, only one match presented itself as a challenge.

“There was a game where it was competitive. We would be down a few runs then score a few runs. It would go back and forth,” Johnson said.

Team Cobra left that softball match as the victor en route to the intramural title.

Despite dominating the softball scene, the Cowgirls have struggled each season in other intramural sports with the powerhouse Thundercats, a team that features men’s and co-ed units of the same name.

“If you’re not in to win, you’re not welcome,” Ben Parker said, a BYU law student who plays for the Thundercats on their men’s and co-ed teams.

The Thundercats boast an impressive roster of both current and former collegiate athletes such as Brittan Parker, who was on the BYU women’s basketball team during 2004–2006.

Parker, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in sociology, has played a key role in multiple championships for the Thundercats, playing point guard on their basketball team and quarterback on their flag football team.

“I’m over 20 shirts for sure. I couldn’t even count. I don’t know how many football championships we’ve won. And kickball. It’s crazy,” Parker said. “We’ve never lost a kickball championship since its creation.”

Team Matt Jackson, an up and coming men’s upper division flag football team formally known by the names Bangerang and Armageddon, has had former football standouts such as Harvey Unga and David Nixon on its roster.

The team is named after Matt Jackson, an undeclared 22-year-old Provo native, who credits selflessness to his team’s success.

“Our team has really good chemistry. We are willing to play any position needed,” Jackson said.

Team Matt Jackson now has three men’s upper division flag football championships under its belt with two of the three titles coming this past year.

“Everyone is excited because we know we have a chance to win. All of us are willing to do whatever it takes whether it be changing positions or being there at every game,” Jackson said.

Surprisingly, out of the Thundercats, Cowgirls and Team Matt Jackson, only the Cowgirls hold regular practices and have a designated playbook.

“We have about 60 plays. There are 10 plays that we run consistently,” Erickson said.

Practice twice a week became standard for the Cowgirls early on since their start 12 seasons ago.

“We would practice Saturday morning and Monday night turning our practice into family home evening,” Erickson laughed. “It’s a little different now that we’re married.”

For the Thundercats, reliance on their speed and athleticism has been their modus operandi.

“Our favorite play is called ‘Let’s See What Happens’,” said Thundercats’ member Liz Wilson, a 22-year-old senior majoring in health education. “We just line up and go.”

Team Matt Jackson takes the same approach from the first game of the season to the championship game.

“We never practice. We have a few go-to-plays but nothing drawn up,” Jackson said of his team’s approach.

While the approach to intramural sports may differ between teams, finding teammates often comes down to selective networking.

“We are very picky,” Wilson said, a versatile athlete who represents BYU in the heptathlon.

Comparable to the Cleveland Cavaliers losing LeBron James after struggling to finish in the playoffs, the Cowgirls have experienced a similar blow to their lineup.

“Brittan used to be on our team but she left for the Thundercats,” Erickson said. “To be honest, I think she wanted a T-shirt.”

Despite struggling against the Thundercats for several seasons with Parker at quarterback, this season may yield different results for Erickson and the Cowgirls.

“I’m five months pregnant. I’ll be watching from the sidelines,” Parker said. “We found out that it’s a girl … future Thundercat.”

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